What We Can Learn from Sustainable Farming - How to Start an Urban Farm


A RICH HISTORY OF SUSTAINABLE FARMING

Did you know that Maya languages include almost one hundred words to differentiate soil types and roughly twice as many for different types of corn? Such precision allows for each kernel to be placed in the exact type of soil that will facilitate its growth. The forests in the Yucatán have been sustainably farmed by the people who inhabit the land for at least 5,000 years and, over time, have encouraged the survival of thousands of species that form the Yucatán biome.

Today many sustainable farming principles are still used to reduce the amount of land required for farming, thus saving many natural resources that might otherwise be used for production and transportation while eliminating conventional plowing, planting, and harvesting by farm machinery, protecting soil and reducing emissions. More than ever, people are turning to urban farming to address their needs and the needs of their community. Some desire a peaceful garden oasis and others view it as a practical and inexpensive means of food production. Increased biodiversity and improved air quality - even on a small scale – are environmental benefits that we can all get on board with when it comes to urban agriculture. Key to successful urban farming is the notion that every garden is unique and should be planned to suit your needs.

Ready to get started?:

STEP 1: SPOT YOUR PLOT

Whether you’re a space-starved city dweller or not your first consideration in starting an urban farm will be planning a precise area for it. Visit a nursery for advice or do some research to be sure the space you choose will support the plant life you intend to have thrive in it. Consider optimal sunlight exposure, climate, and seasonal attributes. Keep it simple with basic materials you’ll need to accommodate a garden that suits the space:

i) Seedlings or plants – many vegetables, flower and herb varieties are easy to grow in urban spaces and should be selected by personal preference and size. Planting food? Plant things you already enjoy eating or varieties not easily found at the local supermarket.

ii) Planters – garden containers can be reused, repurposed and moved to follow the sun and make adjustments as your needs change.

iii) Acquire gravel for drainage and good quality soil - healthy soil means healthy plants! Go for organic soil to avoid pesticides and chemicals.

iv) Tools – a shovel, a hoe and good pruners are essential.

STEP 2: GET PLANTED

Your plants can be potted to thrive in a few simple steps with easy follow-up:

i) Planters should have small holes at the bottom for the escape of excess water; place gravel in the bottom for drainage and fill your planter with soil, tamping it a bit. Tamp the soil after the plants are in place and water gently.

ii) For small spaces, it is ideal to use vertical space to your advantage in laying out your garden. Check out this gallery of creative planters and uses of space: 40+ Ways to Maximize a Small Garden

STEP 3: GO BIG

Once you’ve been bitten by the urban garden bug, you may decide to expand your garden in size or invite others to contribute to a shared space. A community garden may take form in a vacant lot or a donated space and with planning it can be incredibly rewarding. First step, start the conversation with others to discover the possibilities for growth!

With love and compassion,
Team Karunaki

Resources: 
Picture - Urban Farm, Ryerson University - https://www.ryerson.ca/ryerson-works/articles/spotlight/2017/urban-farm/ 
History of Sustainable Farming - https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/5000-years-sustainable-farming
Urban Farming - https://www.epa.gov/brownfields/steps-creating-community-garden-or-expand-urban-agriculture-brownfields-site